God can be a part of our lives. But that doesn’t mean He’s the center. - Spiritual Direction 2011
Six years ago, after completing a Tough Mudder event, I felt on fire, capable of achieving anything. It was a stark contrast to the previous year where I had gone through a devastating divorce. By God’s grace, I made it to the other side. Completing a grueling event gave me a natural high. It was time to go full speed ahead with everything I had ever wanted to do with my life.
I excitedly shared my plans with my teammates - build more companies, start a nonprofit, do community work. One of them asked, “But Rae, where’s God in all of this?” I was slightly offended and confused. This was all for God. I deeply desired for Him to not only be a part of my life, but also the very core of it. But somehow that was not translating.
What did that mean for God to be the center of my life? How was I to place Him there?
Until then, I thought life was about my dreams, calling, and purpose. It was about the things I wanted to experience and accomplish. The relationships I wanted to build and nurture. It was a paradigm shift for me to put all those aside to ask God what He wanted instead. To listen to His deepest desires for me. Instead of praying to bend His will to my hopes and dreams, I began praying for my hopes and dreams to grow closer to His. To see things with His vision and my life as our life here together.
It was radical for me not to be driven by my dreams and aspirations, but instead, allow them to be the starting point to discerning with God what to do in this shared life. It was counter-intuitive for me not to plow forward when I was excited and had momentum about a great idea with possibility. But instead, pause and intentionally ask God what He thought. Then sit in, what was at times, impatient patience, to wait and listen for His response.
This was and still is at times, unsettling and extremely challenging. Sometimes my practice wanes. Sometimes my wants are louder than His voice telling me His. Sometimes I’m torn because what if those two are not the same? What if His plans are different than mine?
What if I don’t like His will?
In January, I married a wonderful loving man who not only loves me but loves God more. From my relationship with my husband to being a part of amazing nurturing communities, and feeling growth and fruition in my career, I thought that this, this was God's dream for me. There still existed daily sacrifice, hard decisions to make, incredibly uncomfortable conflicts in my relationships - but this, this was God's blazing dream for me, and I loved it.
But there was more! I became pregnant! Life was full, vibrant, intense, and glorious. It felt as if everything was becoming even more alive each day. My relationships with my friends, family, clients, and community were deepening. The joy and excitement of this new life were lighting up our connection to one another.
Then, towards the end of my first trimester, we miscarried. Everything went dark.
I often heard the phrase, “This is God’s will.” At times it brought comfort. But mostly, it brought me pain. I numbed myself to God’s reaching hands that wanted to console me. When we did not see a heartbeat on the ultrasound, my doctor looked me straight in the eye, “This isn’t your fault. There is nothing you did to cause this, and there wasn’t anything you could have done to prevent this.”
This is God’s will, I said to myself.
I felt so out of control of my life. It didn’t matter what I did or didn’t do, in or about anything in my life. God already had His plans. I still believed they were good plans. But in this season, I thought, how could this be good? I felt misled and betrayed. I wondered how God could allow me to feel so much joy and then, so much pain.
The miscarriage created a deep chasm between us. While there were blips of grace on the radar, mostly it was quiet. In the television series Star Trek Voyager, the crew of Voyager is catapulted clear across the galaxy by a rare phenomenon. They are 70,000 light years from home, a journey estimated to take an entire lifetime - 70 years. The show is about their pilgrimage.
That was me. Catapulted clear across the Universe, with nothing but an incredible amount of distance between God and His dream for me. An unforeseen “grace” was that by placing God at the center of my core, I could not go or be anywhere without Him. But His dream for me? Extremely far away. I spent the better part of this year, with my arms crossed, walking with God across the galaxy.
During the summer we moved across the country for Kevin’s new job. The silence deepened. There was very little distracting me (no friends, no family, Kevin working all the time) from God’s persistent presence. His prerogative? When I was ready, I truly believe He just wanted me to let Him hold me. I truly believe He understood my pain. He had a son who passed away too. I truly believe He was OK with me wanting some space and pleased that like the prodigal son I still wanted to come home and be with Him.
We are still walking with one another. I am holding His hand once again. I now have more real tangible evidence that God is with me - anywhere and everywhere. This does not shield me from struggle. It shields me from being alone in the dark. In the lyrics below, I used to imagine that it was Jesus with me in the dark room. It was easier. We never hear, “This is Jesus’ will.” So I could sit with Jesus in this pain. But God? No thank you. In writing this reflection, the imagery has changed. Now, in the emptiness, it is God who is holding me.
"I'll hit the lights and you lock the doors
Tell me all of the things that you couldn't before
Don't walk away, don't roll your eyes
They say love is pain, well darling, let's hurt tonight"